Celebrations in Tanzania come in all shapes and sizes. Drumming coming from the village huts all night long, various high-pitched yell/screams, fake flower decorations, dancing, and LONG impromptu speeches are just some of the aspects of celebrations I have witnessed or have had personal involvement. Last weekend we had a celebration for one of our fellow teachers who got married in September. The day before we gave some money for a gift and we were told that the celebration would begin at 1 pm in the staff room the following day.
The next day at about 11 am we were called outside to begin the cooking process with the other women. I sat on a little wooden bench and prepared the spinach-like mchicha while being laughed at as usual! Meanwhile, the chickens were brought by bicycle…still alive and probably confused as to why their legs were bound and therefore why they were looking so ridiculous hopping around. Huge pots were used to prepare the ndizi (banana) stew, kachumbari (what they consider a chutney/salsa-like side) was cut up, English and Swahili conversations were exchanged, plenty of laughs were had, and the chickens…well I think you know what happened to them.
This process took all day and, as Tanzanian time goes, the party started closer to 5 pm rather than 1. I walked into a transformed staff room decorated with cut-up fabric draped from side to side and brightly coloured plastic flowers and bows. I sat down at a makeshift table (student desks with a table cloth) and was immediately brought a soda, another classic East African move, by our head boy Karimu. After about fifteen minutes we all left the staff room and walked down the path to greet the guests of honour. The procession returned to the school and prepared to eat. All of the food was lined up outside in big buckets and feasting began. Now let me tell you, finger food here is a little different than finger food back home. There are no cute mini wraps, jalapeno poppers, or baby quiches….we’re talking full on rice, pilau, chicken, ndizi stew, potatoes (notice the carbs going on here), and kachumbari. I still haven’t mastered eating rice with my hand. Making a ball with one hand is actually pretty tough, looking elegant while you attempt to get all of the rice grains and sauce into your mouth is down-right impossible. It is a good thing I told everyone I wanted to find a husband at home…
After dinner came the gift giving which involved all of us teachers bringing in a bed spread, while dancing to Celine Dion, and then covering the couple with said bed spread. It was hilarious. Then came the dance party/conga line to greet the couple. If you think you can get away with sitting and watching you have got another thing coming!
All in all it was a great day and evening filled with love, laughter, and plenty of warm soda!
-WorldTeach Tanzania volunteer Chelsea
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